Ballot solution to Clause IV : LETTERS

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The Independent Online
From Mr P. K. Burgess Sir: In "Another View" today (24 January), the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union missed the point. Neither you nor Ms Langton on the Letters page were really addressing the messenger or the message. Since, as Ms Langton points out, no one can know what the average TGWU member thinks about Clause IV, there is literally no "message", and therefore no one can be the "messenger".

Bill Morris claims that he knows the views of his members since he has asked all of his branches for their opinions. He might thereby know the views of that tiny minority of activists who run branch committees, or attend branch meetings. However, to generalise from this small and biased sample to the views of the bulk of the membership is absurd.

The problem faced by Mr Morris, and all of us who hold office in trade unions, is to find a proper way of consulting the membership at large, and to strike a balance between the role of the activists (who are the backbone of the union, without which it cannot function) and the role of the ordinary members who are the union, without whom it cannot exist.

If members were granted the right to requisition ballots on crucial issues, then their interests would be safeguarded. They would not need to exercise this right often, since the leadership would be inhibited from taking any stance which it knew the membership did not share.

Now is the time for the leadership of all trade unions to address this issue with a courage equal to that of Tony Blair.

Yours sincerely, P. K. BURGESS Vice-President Association of University Teachers Dundee University Dundee 24 January